PHOENIX — Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton both had 26 points, Chris Paul had a triple-double with 11 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns beat the LeBron-less Los Angeles Lakers 111-94 on Sunday night.
The Lakers were playing without 17-time All-Star LeBron James for just the second time this season and the team fell to 0-2 in his absence. James suffered a high ankle sprain in a 99-94 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and is expected to miss significant time.
Los Angeles struggled on offence without James, shooting 41% from the field. Montrezl Harrell led the Lakers with 23 points off the bench on 10-of-13 shooting. Dennis Schroder added 22 points.
Phoenix entered the fourth quarter with an 88-76 advantage. The Lakers pulled within 96-89 with 6:33 left after Schroder made a free throw following a technical foul on Paul, but the Suns responded with the next seven points and pulled away for their 17th win in 21 games.
The Suns pushed out to a 59-44 lead by halftime. Booker had 14 points before the break, while Ayton had 12. The Lakers shot just 37% from the field in the first half.
PAUL GETS TO 10,000
Paul became the sixth player in NBA history with 10,000 assists when he threw an alley-oop pass to Deandre Ayton for a dunk in the third quarter.
The only players in league history with more assists are John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Mark Jackson and Magic Johnson. With about 30 games left this season, it's possible Paul could pass Nash, Jackson and Johnson for third on the career list.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he wasn't sure how much time James will miss with his ankle injury, but made it clear that a quick return was unlikely.
“We’re prepared for him to be without us basically indefinitely,” Vogel said during pregame on Sunday.
Vogel said the Lakers would obviously miss having having the four-time Most Valuable Player on the floor, but the team's offence would have the same “general structure and framework."
The coach also hoped that the time off the court would allow James a mental break as well as a physical one. The Lakers won the NBA championship last season in a COVID-19 delayed season that ended on Oct. 11. That gave James and the rest of L.A.'s players less than two months to recover before training camp for the current season.
James was at Sunday's game with a boot on his injured ankle.
FACES IN THE CROWD
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce watched Sunday's game from a suite.
Lakers: Without James, Los Angeles went with a starting lineup of Wesley Matthews, Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Schroder.
Suns: F Cam Johnson was available for the first time since missing six straight games in the league's healthy and safety protocol. He made his first shot — a 3-pointer from the corner — after checking in late in the first quarter. He finished with eight points in 15 minutes.
Lakers: Travel to face the Pelicans on Tuesday.
Suns: Travel to face the Heat on Tuesday.
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David Brandt, The Associated Press